Nuclear-Free Taiwan: Blackouts Will Be a Fact of Life
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 30, 2014
Summary: Those who demand a nuclear-free Taiwan assure us that even after nuclear
power generation is abolished we will still have abundant electricity.
They assure us that blackouts are merely boogeymen invented by advocates
of nuclear power. When it was still unclear whether advocates of a
nuclear-free Taiwan would emerge victorious, they could get away with
all sorts of irresponsible and unsubstantiated claims. But now advocates
of a nuclear free Taiwan have come into their own, As a result, they
can no longer get away with irresponsible claims. All consumers must
confront the prospect of power shortages and blackouts without advanced
warning. Otherwise when electricity is essential but unavailable, any
crisis could mean life vs. death.
Full text below:
Those who demand a nuclear-free Taiwan assure us that even after nuclear power generation is abolished we will still have abundant electricity. They assure us that blackouts are merely boogeymen invented by advocates of nuclear power. When it was still unclear whether advocates of a nuclear-free Taiwan would emerge victorious, they could get away with all sorts of irresponsible and unsubstantiated claims. But now advocates of a nuclear free Taiwan have come into their own, As a result, they can no longer get away with irresponsible claims. All consumers must confront the prospect of power shortages and blackouts without advanced warning. Otherwise when electricity is essential but unavailable, any crisis could mean life vs. death.
Power supply stability on Taiwan once ranked among the highest in the world at nearly 99%. This was because the government promoted economic growth. It pursued a policy of "if power is needed, power will be provided." Many needs were provided by Taipower, a state owned enterprise. But 20 years ago, Taiwan began liberalizing the electrical power industry. It authorized the construction of private sector electrical power plants. Later, environmental awareness, global warming, calls for a nuclear free homeland, the rejection of coal, and the insistence on gas burning electrical power plants, led to incremental deterioration of the power grid and eventual crisis.
A stable power supply must meet three criteria. One. Its power supply must be adequate. This includes it total installed capacity and spinning reserve ratio. Two. The power supply must be reliable and schedulable. Three. The power supply must be high quality. The voltage must be stable. If power supply stability decreases, the impact will be serious. Taiwan's economy is highly dependent on heavy industry, the chemical industry, and energy-intensive industry. Taiwan society requires electricity to keep its communications and transportation systems, life support systems, disaster prevention systems, and medical care systems functioning. Blackouts would affect all of these as well.
Taiwan's biggest crisis is power grid deterioration . It is severely deficient in base load capacity, and the situation is getting worse. If Taiwan goes nuclear-free and rejects the use of coal, its situation will be even more difficult. The problem is not confined to power capacity. Power quality is also an issue.
Taiwan's independent power grid makes it more difficult to maintain a stable power supply. This is true for nuclear, coal, gas, oil, and gas fired base load capacity. Installed capacity must to reach at least 60% to support system operation. Low cost fuel power generation capacity exceeds nuclear and coal-fired units as a proportion of installed capacity. They are the backbone of the power system. Eliminate nuclear power plants and coal-fired units. Replace them with high priced gas powered plants, and the system will lose money as fast as it generates electricity. It will also take at least a decade to build gas-fired power plants and relay stations. They will not be able to fill the gap left by nuclear free, coal free power generation.
Contrast this with Fukushima Japan, which was struck by nuclear disaster. Anti-nuclear sentiment led to a zero tolerance policy toward nuclear power generation. But during a recent cabinet meeting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted a safe nuclear power plant policy, on the grounds that "nuclear power is important for base load capacity." Japan was unable to bear three years and 220 billion USD in gas costs and the associated trade deficits. Taiwan wants to go nuclear free immediately. Even Japan could not afford to do so. How can Taiwan?
Even currently, coal-fired power remains the mainstay of the power grid. It provides northern Taiwan with 43% of its electricity. But many plants are in south-central Taiwan. This makes them difficult to maintain. An accident to a transmission tower, and a unexpected power outage is certain. If Taiwan goes nuclear free, new units at Linkou, Hsiehho, Shenau, and Tatan are bound to encounter more local resistance and difficulties with EIAs, making the situation even worse.
If we leave aside capital costs, gas-fired units could theoretically fill the power gap. But the international natural gas market is severely strained. Demand on Taiwan is rising. Qatar, Indonesia, and Malaysia, account for more than 80% of the procurement structure. Political instability in these countries has long been a concern. The chance that gas may become unavailable continues to increase. Some hope that U.S. shale gas can fill the gap. But this must await the relaxation of export policy, the construction of port liquefaction equipment, and even the completion of Panama Canal widening. How can this possibly be achieved in the short term?
Deterioration of the power grid will affect scheduling and lead to power outages. Voltage instability also presents a problem. In particular, the high-tech industries which account for most of our exports, require a high degree of voltage stability. Voltage instability has a significant impact on equipment and production capacity. Taiwan's high-tech industry has traditionally been able to attract investments, largely due to high quality power supplies.
Power grid deterioration will lead to more than just increased power outages. Life support systems will also be affected. Drinking water, beginning with source water, water purification, pressurized water, and ending up as tap water, depends on electricity. A given amount of water requires a given amount of electricity. Put simply, the production cost of drinking water is not confined to the water supply. Power shortages can affect sewage treatment, pumping, silt removal, and drainage. Every one of these processes requires power.
If the information and communications system is under attack, it will impact our daily lives. ATMs cannot dispense cash to debit card holders. Convenience store logistics, cash flow glitches, mean they will no longer be able to serve you. Airport e-tickets cannot be scanned. Passengers will not be able to board their planes. People will be more than just inconvenienced. Some impacts could cost people their lives. Oxygen supplies for critically ill hospital patients could be interrupted due to power outages. Surgeries could be interrupted mid way by sudden power failures. Disaster monitoring systems could be thrown off by unstable power supplies The impacts are difficult to predict.
We may choose to hold a referendum. We may choose to mothball nuclear power plants. Either way, these are serious decisions. One must give them serious consideration. Whatever we decide, we are the ones who will have to bear the consequences.
2014.04.30 01:58 am